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There’s a good chance that at one point or another, you’ve found yourself muttering, “Life sucks” under your breath. Maybe your boss gave you an overwhelming assignment when they noticed “you haven’t been busy lately.” Or maybe you said it out loud in your car when you couldn’t find a parking spot closer than two football fields away from the grocery store and you were just running in for milk.
Often our tired sighs of “Life sucks” are simply acknowledgments of temporary frustrations, but sometimes there’s more to it than that. Sometimes it’s a refrain ringing constantly in our heads.
When this is the case–when the suckiness of life is bouncing through our brains, sinking our perceptions and draining our energy–everything can feel impossible, especially the undertaking of trying to turn things around. But this feeling of general unhappiness is our brains’ way of telling us that something in our lives isn’t working, and turning things around is exactly what we need to do.
Yes, life can be hard and circumstances can objectively suck. But we have the power to feel better. Even if we can’t eliminate the challenges in our lives, we can learn new strategies to deal with them, strategies that allow us to be happy, even when life sucks.
The hard part is that when life has you down, it’s tough to garner the energy to make any necessary changes. When we’re so down that getting better feels too overwhelming, the best approach is to start small.
(Side note: One proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.).
In this article, we will look at 11 actionable steps you can take to gain a new perspective on your life when you’re feeling down.
What You Will Learn
- 11 Actions to Take When You Feel Like Life Sucks
- What to Do When Life Sucks: Final Thoughts
11 Actions to Take When You Feel Like Life Sucks
1. Get Outside
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and if you’re not very outdoorsy, it may feel unnecessary as well as a little cliché. But it’s popular advice because it works.
Studies show that getting outside not only gives you space to de-stress but the fresh air also actively boosts your mood. Exposure to natural light tends to elevate your mood, and if you can get some physical activity in, that can help relax and cheer you up even more. There’s something about getting out of the house and into the great outdoors–away from the familiar trappings of comfort–that piques our senses and relaxes our minds.
2. Move Your Body
Speaking of physical activity, there are endless things you can do to move your body to improve your physical and mental health. Even if it’s as simple as standing up, stretching, taking a load of laundry out of the dryer, or taking your dog for a walk.
Sometimes the reason we feel like life sucks is that we are overwhelmed by all the things we need to do. Sometimes it just takes getting yourself a glass of water and taking a shower to gain the momentum you need to take care of the rest of your oppressive to-do list.
3. Call a Friend
Sometimes we just really need to vent and be distracted from our own thoughts. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are valued and loved. The solution to all of these needs is simple: call a friend. After all, being there for each other when life honestly sucks is exactly what friends are for.
4. Be Honest
When talking to others about your issues, be honest in how you’re feeling–even if that particular person is part of the problem. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone right now about what you’re going through, that’s ok too, but be honest with yourself about what it is that is bothering you exactly. If you aren’t even sure of the culprit, do a brain dump to see if you can gain a more clear picture of the things that aren’t going your way.
It may be helpful to tell a friend that you’re not ready to talk about whatever is going on in your life, but you would still appreciate their support. Putting your truth into the world one conversation at a time is one of the hardest–yet most achievable–ways to start feeling better.
5. Put Your Phone Down
Being honest is a profound way to improve your mindset–but maybe it’s not the best idea to speak your truth on social media and then babysit the comment section for the rest of the day. Research continues to link our smartphone habits with our levels of happiness. The more we scroll, the less happy we tend to be.
But cutting down on screen time can be hard–so it’s important to start small. Dock your phone by your vanity after you brush your teeth at night rather than by your bed, make it a point to not check your phone when socializing with friends (you know how important it is to be a good listener), don’t let yourself check your phone until you’ve had your morning coffee.
Chances are, the less you look at your phone, the less you will have the urge to do so throughout the day.
6. Make Sure Your Life Reflects Your Values
Do you know what you value in life? Think for a minute about why you chose your particular career path or the city where you reside. Doing so will help you realize that your values start to emerge.
Your personal core values lay the foundation for your beliefs, which then influence your behavior and guide you to make the choices that you do. Your values are concepts that can be used many times over in your life in a variety of situations to guide your actions. You uncover your values through your life experience and during the process of building self-awareness.
However, if you aren’t living in a way that is allowing your actions to be steered by your values, then you’re living with a sense of inner conflict. And changing your life in such a way isn’t easy. Your life up to this point is familiar, formulaic, and–in an unfortunate way–comfortable. You have lived the way you do for a long time and your habits are now ingrained.
So the key here is to form new habits that reflect your values. You have to create some realistic strategies for making sure your future choices reflect the things in life that are the most important to you.
7. Help Others
Did you know that there is something you can do to improve your attitude about your life without even getting up?
It’s true. Studies have shown that when you help other people, your pituitary glands emit more oxytocin, which increases your positive thinking, which makes you feel good.
Sure, it can feel daunting to come up with the energy to help other people when it feels like your own life is falling apart, but the truth is, your problems will be waiting for you when you return, and helping others might be just the mental vacation you need to start fresh and move forward.
8. Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love Now
When life sucks–when responsibilities are piling up, when you feel like you are failing everyone in your life–it might feel like you haven’t earned the things that make you happy. We all have passion projects, hobbies we wish were careers, and items on our bucket list that we aren’t doing because “it isn’t the right time”.
Give yourself permission to do these things now. Opportunities for true joy won’t always be waiting. Seize your opportunities while you can! Don’t allow a menial chore stand in your way of moving forward. Honoring your true self in this way will help you feel better, and when you feel better, you’ll also feel stronger and capable of handling anything. Even that sink full of dirty dishes.
9. Go to Therapy
Of all the changes you can make, going to therapy may seem like a big one. It’s hard to figure out payment, insurance, in-network providers, and find a good fit the first try after you do pick a therapist. This is especially true when you’re already down–the process seems impossible.
For some people, the drawback may have less to do with the administrative side of finding a therapist, and more to do with skepticism.
Can talking to a stranger about your problems really solve anything? The truth is that therapy can be very helpful because you’re talking to a qualified listener (who holds no bias) to help you sort out your feelings so you have the coping skills to manage those feelings moving forward.
Therapy can be an important step if you are feeling down. It does not mean you are crazy. Just that you need to talk about your issues.
Another way to process and clarify your feelings is to write them down. The mental health benefits of journaling cannot be overstated. Not only can writing about all the ways life sucks function as a necessary vent, but it also gives you a record of your own emotions, as well as the space to observe them and increase your self-awareness.
By getting things off your chest and putting them in a journal–and then walking away–you’re able to create a physical distance from your problems.
A common drawback people have with journaling is their desire to write well and sound wise and interesting. But journals are supposed to be private, so don’t let the fear of an imaginary reader hold you back from spilling your guts in the privacy of your own pages.
11. Choose Gratitude
This is perhaps the most profound change you can make when life sucks. We’ve all heard the old adage of having “an attitude of gratitude”, but true gratitude goes beyond checklists of things we are thankful for.
Being grateful means holding constant awareness that everything in your life is evidence that you’re so very lucky. Think of your access to clean water, food, and 215 other things you should be grateful for. Remaining aware of how fortunate you are, no matter how hard things get, is a powerful way to control your mindset and remain resilient even when life really, really sucks.
What to Do When Life Sucks: Final Thoughts
I know you feel like there is no end in sight. But let this low point in your life be a motivator to make a change. If you keep taking action rather than giving up, something positive will come. And you’ve taken the first step by reading this article.
Take the advice offered here and try to incorporate it into your everyday life. Even if you start small by keeping 2 or 3 of the suggestions in mind today, you will start making a difference. Seeing change occur once you stay proactive for a few weeks will strengthen your belief in taking some sort of action and keep on keeping on–even on the roughest of days.
Finally, one proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.